Sakkari secures semi spot

GREEK talent Maria Sakkari has secured her semi-final spot in the WTA Finals after winning her second consecutive group match. After overcoming Jessica Pegula on day one, Sakkari defeated fellow first-up winner Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets on day three. In the other match, Pegula started the contest strongly, but eventually fell to Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

Sakkari needed an hour and 37 minutes to see off Sabalenka, making it two from two to qualify for the final four in the Nancy Richey Group. The fifth seed was incredibly strong, winning 6-2 6-4 after breaking her opponent five times during the match. Though the Belarusian was able to break her twice, the Greek won a fair higher percentage of her serves, with a 68 and 54 per cent success rate from her first and second serves.

The win guaranteed the fifth seed a spot in the semi-finals, with only Jabeur to come. If Sakkari wins that she will be guaranteed top spot and likely avoid world number one Iga Swiatek until the final. However a loss would see her finish second in the group and therefore be more likely to take on Swiatek in the semi-finals. For Sabalenka, she needs Sakkari to win and also beat Pegula in the other final round robbing match.

Meanwhile, second seed Jabeur kept her hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals alive with a remarkable come-from-behind win over local hope Pegula in three sets. The Tunisian won 1-6 6-3 6-3 in an hour and 38 minutes to set up a huge do-or-die final round robin match with Sakkari. Jabeur won 62 and 48 per cent of her first and second serve points compared to the American’s 61 and 39 per cent success rate.

“After the first set, she was playing really well and really fast,” Jabeur said post-match. “The balls were tough, very low – I know she likes to play the balls like that. And I just had to find that click to just change up the rhythm and impose my game.”

Jabeur said she used the loss to Sabalenka on day one as motivation given she had little time to turn around the form.

“Honestly, it was very tough,” Jabeur said. “Because I’m used to being depressed for the next two days when I lose. I didn’t have much time. It was very hard to sleep the first day to be honest with you.”

The victory over Pegula moved Jabeur to a leading 4-2 head-to-head against the American. It did mark the third time the Tunisian had beaten her opponent in 2022.

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